SEMA NEWS - April 2010

The ProPledge Program—Why You Need to Be Involved


From left: Nathan Ward, Tops & Trends; David Sheffler, Katzkin Leather; Kirk Scott, Katzkin Leather; Bill North, Webasto; Joe Sebergandio Motor Media Inc.; Marvin Metzler, Mito Corp.; Josh Rohm, MITO Corp. Doug Perez, Automotive Essentials; and Joey Johnston, Tops & Trends.

recently had an opportunity to catch up with ProPledge Director of Operations Joe Sebergandio. Having just returned from the annual National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) conference, where he and the rest of the ProPledge staff met with potential participants, Sebergandio took time out to discuss the fundamentals of ProPledge as well as provide insight into the program’s future.

SEMA News: What exactly is the SEMA ProPledge program?

Joe Sebergandio: ProPledge is a unified way to assure dealers that they can stand behind the specialty products they sell, much like they can with OEM-branded products, under a single quality assurance brand. Under ProPledge, participating companies offer a minimum of 36-month/36,000-mile warranty coverage that is industry-backed; provide liability coverage of a minimum of $5 million (listing dealer as additional insured); and meet quality process and time-in-business criteria.

SN: Why was ProPledge created?

JS: To stimulate more sales of specialty products at the dealership level. Specialty auto products and accessories generate more than $30 billion in annual retail sales, fueled largely by consumer interest in vehicle personalization and new accessory-friendly vehicle designs from the OEMs. Historically, many dealers have not aggressively merchandised SEMA-member accessories due to concerns about warranties and liability protection. ProPledge is designed to make the vehicle accessorization process simple and provide peace of mind so both the dealer and consumer can “Customize With Confidence!” Our program offers the products to select/install and eases their concerns about warranty, liability and customer satisfaction. ProPledge was targeted to overcome these traditional barriers associated with specialty aftermarket products sold during the new- (and select used-) vehicle sales process—namely warranty and customer satisfaction scores (CSI). ProPledge provides at zero cost to both consumer and dealer, the quality, assurance and confidence they demand, thus, allowing the customer to drive off the lot in the car of their dreams!

SN: How does the program work?

JS: ProPledge is a cooperative initiative comprised of SEMA-member manufacturers and installers committed to delivering quality products and services.

Should a claim arise, the consumer can visit their dealer or contact our ProPledge Customer Support Center where a repair or replacement of the product or installation will be arranged. The process provides complete satisfaction so the customer can get back on the road.

SN: Who actually oversees the program?

JS: Specialty Equipment Warranty Alliance (SEWA), a subsidiary of SEMA, backs the limited warranty program. Back in July of 2009, my firm, Motor Media Inc. became involved handling vital member recruitment, sales and marketing. Beverly Rosen of SEMA handles the day-to-day operations. We also have a marketing relationship and partner with Insignia, (an industry leader in accessories sales tools and processes for new-vehicle dealerships across numerous brands) and Alliant Insurance services; both play a major role in the program’s success.

SN: What is covered by the guarantee?

JS: Any ProPledge member product or service for a period of 36 months or 36,000 miles from the purchase date of any new or used (vehicles three years older than the current model).

SN: What are some of the benefits of ProPledge for vehicle dealers?

  From left: Randy Young of Classic Soft Trim of Tampa Bay, Florida; Webasto’s Bill North; and Tops and Trends David Sheffler check out the ProPledge-backed Ford Flex at the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) convention.

JS: Peace of mind knowing that there is liability protection and warranty coverage similar to that offered by the vehicle
manufacturers. ProPledge also makes it easier for dealers to select and identify what products they can sell with confidence. When dealers see the ProPledge logo/mark, they can be assured that the product and the installer have met our SEMA quality standards. Finally, dealers can certainly benefit from the revenue streams that the ProPledge program provides, particularly now when vehicle sales are more challenging.

SN: What are the benefits to installers and accessory manufacturers?

JS: ProPledge is a powerful tool to gain the confidence of dealers and encourage increased sales at the car dealership level.

To the installers, I feel that ProPledge provides them with an extra measure of credibility they enjoy while working and visiting with dealers, knowing that they are being backed by SEWA. It certainly distinguishes their business from the competition, which in turn, boosts sales at the dealership level for their business. ProPledge enhances our member’s company image.

To the manufacturers, it provides them with the opportunity to sell more product, plain and simple, through the dealerships.

In both cases, ProPledge provides a substantial branding and marketing program for our members that carries their message and products through an assortment of mediums, reaching the dealer, consumer and trade alike. For example, ProPledge ad campaigns are placed in all of our appropriate SEMA trade outlets, including SEMA News and our increasingly popular weekly SEMA eNews. Our partners at Source Interlink Media promote our program to the consumer in quarterly ads in both Motor Trend and Automobile magazines, reaching more than 11.2 million total consumers monthly. In both cases, we are promoting our ProPledge member and program marketing message: “Customize With Confidence.” During the SEMA Show, our Dealer Day program helps us get intimate face time with hundreds of dealers, again, offering our members branding exposures and product showcasing. The recent ProPledge booth at the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) event was another example of how our members benefit via product exposure and feature-vehicle placements viewed by attending dealers.

What product categories does ProPledge include?

ProPledge includes products, such as leather interiors; sunroofs; mobile electronics; tonneau covers; truck-bed-related products; grilles; grille guards; cat-back exhaust systems and tips; suspension, both lowered and lifted; wheels; ground-effect kits; and roof treatments, just to name a few.

SN: Who is currently participating in ProPledge?

JS: I would have to begin with our installer lineup, as they played such a huge role in the program’s pilot launch and candidly are key to the program’s future success:

Doug Perez of Automotive Essentials in Rockville, Maryland, is one of our programs biggest supporters. His business has seen notable advantages of being a founding member of ProPledge and sites the many instances where our program has enhanced his relationships and profits working with local dealers and dealer groups. Tops & Trends in Kernersville, North Carolina; Auto Trim & Restyling of Manchester, Missouri; Auto Trim of Denver, Colorado; and Classic Soft Trims of Commerce California, have been with us since the pilot and are back for 2010. We are making substantial progress of late and hope to shortly confirm installers joining the program from Texas, Wisconsin, Florida, California and Ohio. Our long-term goal includes representation of at least one ProPledge certified installer in each state.

      NADA ProPledge Ford Flex

Leather Seat Covers
Katzkin Leather Inc.

Webasto Product America

Body Kit

WTW Corp.

Continental Tire

Classic Designs

On the manufacturer side, we are proud to see the return of such notable companies, including Katzkin Leather, Webasto, MITO Corp., Check Corporation, Roadwire and Inalfa Sunroofs to name a few. 3dCarbon is our newest addition to the ProPledge manufacturer roster, and we are working closely with WTW Corp., Innovative Creations, Rosen Entertainment, Pioneer Electronics and others on a daily basis, encouraging and assisting them with their membership participation. We are seeking partners for the program on a daily basis and need the industry’s support. As more manufacturers support and join ProPledge, we can collectively realize the increased sales when dealerships increase their offerings of specialty parts and accessories.

SN: How can interested companies sign up to participate?

JS: Visit today or call me, Joe Sebergandio 24/7/365. We are poised to make this program a success and can already see the impact and momentum that has started to develop.

A phone call to 818/248-4449 gets you to our ProPledge staff comprised of myself, Brian Paik and Steve Warner.
“Customize With Confidence” and tell ’em, ProPledge has your back!

ProPledge Participants Speak Out

“Maximizing car-dealer confidence in restyling products remains a key objective for Webasto. ProPledge strives to arm our restylers with tangible value in the form of unified coverage—even when the consumer is far from home. We look forward to the day when car dealers will specify that they only contract installations through ProPledge installers using ProPledge components.”
—Bill North, Webasto

“As a participating ProPledge manufacturer and restyler, SEMA’s ProPledge Program has provided increased market visibility, shown measurable market-sales increases and has enabled new business opportunities with automotive OEM and dealership customers. ProPledge can differentiate restylers and manufacturers in highly competitive markets and industry manufacturing segments by pointing out vital factors that should be expected, if not demanded, by today’s consumers, automotive dealerships and automotive manufacturers. If you consider your company to be of an elite status in our industry, SEMA’s ProPledge can give you the recognition you deserve; join us in ProPledge.”
—Dave Edmondson, Roadwire

“ProPledge is a winner for all parties involved in the sale of aftermarket accessories at the dealership level. Being a supplier, we get exposure to both dealers and installers that service car dealers. The installers get 3-year/36,000-mile warranties on the products they use, and the car dealer gets peace of mind that both the parts and the installation are of a caliber that they are accustomed to, with the added reassurance that both the installation and the product are covered by a warranty. The successful new-car dealers of tomorrow are embracing accessory sales today; ProPledge makes it easy for them to do it.”
—Josh Rohm, MITO Corp.

“ProPledge sets a new standard in our industry. It provides dealers and consumers with a level of assurance that was previously unavailable. If you truly meet the highest standards, ProPledge is an important measure, and we at Katzkin proudly display our ProPledge accreditation.”
—Ron Leslie, Katzkin Leather Inc.

“ProPledge has given us a competitive advantage, enabling us to provide our customers with a level of assurance that has not been available up until now. As a dealership, we now have complete confidence in our restyling products, no longer worried about vehicle-modification liability concerns. Not only are we providing the highest-quality products, but the 36-month nationwide guarantee, backed by SEMA, makes all the difference.”
—Tom Facsetti, Dean Team Hyundai

“ProPledge provides our new-car dealer clients with added assurance that our work is performed by certified technicians, offers a 36-month/36,000-mile backed warranty by SEWA and provides their customers with a no-cost, limited warranty reflective of the OEMs!”
—Tony Hinton, Auto Trim Restyling

“When choosing an aftermarket company, our main focus was to find one that would guarantee their work. Through Doug Perez and his Automotive Essentials, where customer satisfaction is number one, our dealership sales and service staff can now sell aftermarket products backed by the ProPledge guarantee. The ProPledge guarantee has provided our dealership with better profits and peace of mind.
It can’t get any better than that.”
—David Lantz, Ourisman Chrysler, Jeep, Dodge

“We have had a long-term successful relationship with Tops and Trends based on the excellent service and products they provide. Our customers love the quality, professional installation and nationwide warranty through ProPledge. We rest assured that wherever our customers may move, they will be taken care of through the network. Tops and Trends always exceeds our expectations when it comes to delivering a quality product, quickly and at an affordable price.”
—John Parker, Skyland Automotive Inc.

“As a pilot member in the SEMA ProPledge program, Tops and Trends has seen firsthand the confidence that dealers and customers exhibit when their vehicles are accessorized by professionally trained ASE-certified technicians utilizing quality parts and accessories. The ProPledge guarantee provides customers peace of mind through its national network of certified facilities should a warranty issue arise.”
—Joey Johnston, Tops and Trends

“Our relationship with Tops and Trends has always given us the experience of workmanship and quality of services that they provide. Our customers have always had 100% satisfaction with the services they have provided and the timeliness and how quickly they receive their vehicle back. We have no dispute that wherever our customers might move to, that they will be taken care of 100% of the time through ProPledge.
Tops and Trends have always stopped on a dime to help us whenever we need them, and we treasure our relationship with them. Their pricing is very affordable, and customers always leave with a smile on their face. Thanks to the whole crew at Tops and Trends for all of their diligent workmanship and continuing support of our dealership.”
—Brandt Howard, Jim Barkley Toyota

“ProPledge gives dealers and their customers a 3-year/36,000-mile nationwide warranty. With ProPledge you can truly ‘Customize with Confidence.’”
—Doug Perez, Owner,Automotive Essentials

“ProPledge is ‘where the rubber meets the road’ in the accessory business. We don’t only talk about quality, we guarantee it. ProPledge takes the guess work out of accessories for dealers with a 3-year/36,000-mile nationwide warranty program. It’s been the difference for us in signing several dealer accounts this year.”
—Jon Titman, Automotive Essentials Inc.

“ProPledge is the perfect tool for manufacturers and installers in the accessory market; finally, a program that addresses dealer and consumer concerns regarding quality of aftermarket accessories and the warranty they provide. Check Corporation stands behind the members of ProPledge because it holds us accountable for the products and services we provide to dealers and consumers with a nationwide warranty program. If you’re an installer or manufacturer that wants to set yourself apart from the competition, then ProPledge is the program for you!”
—Brian Champa, Check Corporation

“ProPledge provides new-/used-car dealers the comfort of knowing we are selling a quality product backed with a nationwide warranty. It takes the guess work out of the salespersons’ and service department’s hands when/if a problem arises with the aftermarket product. Now all departments involved can knowingly sell a product competitively that is fully protected by the ProPledge guarantee.”
—Larry Branche, Fitzgerald Auto Malls

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